Monthly Archives: February 2011

I could take on Jihad Jane (a.k.a. “Bring it, Bitch”)

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I don’t do well with vacations.  I LOVE the idea of vacation, but I always always ALWAYS get sick when I go somewhere.  It’s probably because of the usual reasons: I work so hard to be able to take time off work that I deplete all my energy and set my immune system up for a downfall.  In the good old days, the days when someone else paid for my vacations, I somehow still managed to get ill. Most of it was stomach related… due to too many take-off’s and landings, drinking too many carbonated beverages, eating too much airline food.  It happens.  And, it isn’t pretty.

My sister and I traveled back from the middle east together once in college.  We flew into SeaTac, where I was quickly whisked aside and intensely questioned. You may think that racial profiling is about judging the darker skinned of us (especially in Seattle), but let me tell you – I am the epitome of racial profiling. They are looking at us blonde-blue eyed hayseed types as the typical drug smuggler/terrorist.  We are not publicized in the media, but the government is on to us.

Watch out.  We’re armed with potatoes, sourdough bread, and People magazines.

Blonde Power (we shout this while flipping our hair)!

(don’t be too frightened.  we tend to be easily distracted.  what’s that?  Glee’s on? Did I just see Lady Gaga?)

I am the ONE person who is always pulled out of a line to be checked over for gunpowder residue, dog sniffed for drugs, and questioned like the criminal I could never be.   These people don’t seem to understand that I have a guilt complex.  I have a strong inability to lie.  Even about the mundane.  I just can’t do it.  I sweat.  My butt.  Off.  My butt is my tell.  If it’s sweaty, I’m trying to lie (or I’m working out really hard).

So, you can see why my stomach would get upset.

After the airport grilling and my truth-telling that began to feel like lying because my butt was sweating because my stomach hurt and I needed to hit the toilet soon and I shouldn’t have eaten that chicken cordon blewwwwwww….. I ran to the bathroom, my sister bravely by my side.  Ugh.  There was someone in there.  She was dressed in red.  I mean, all in red.  Red dress, red headband, red heels, red fish net stockings, red lips, in my mind she even had red hair, but that’s probably an exaggeration.  What could I do?  She couldn’t be saved.  She was busy applying more red lipstick.  Her innocent make-up application would surely be her demise.

The chemical warfare began.  When the first bomb erupted my sister started maniacally giggling.  Probably laughing at the unfortunate hooker’s very unfortunate choice in airport bathrooms.  The laughter was contagious.

When you laugh, sometimes it causes you to bear down.  Especially when seated on a toilet.

The next explosion was louder.  The bathroom was ground zero.  The whole airport shook.

The giggles stopped –

Replaced by full on guffaws.  If I hadn’t been glued to the potty, I would surely have fallen on the nasty bathroom floor, snorting and tearing and spasming from the hilarity of it all.   The hooker retreated, obviously offended by witnessing such human suffering, but not before losing her senses of smell and hearing.  Such a tragedy.  Fortunately, that did not render her incapable of performing her job.

After surviving my own suicide bombing of the baggage claim bathroom at SeaTac airport that day, I realized that I should never be around humans after traveling. In college I had a boyfriend offer to pick me up.

Hell no! My sister will get me (knowing she has no sense of smell remaining, most of it replaced by a sense of compassion for her troubled intestinal sibling). I’ll see you two days after I get back!”  I think he thought I was mad at him.  I just knew that he would not be impressed with my alter ego:

Blondie, the  Suicide Bomber.

If he discovered my blonde terrorist ties he would have broken up with me on the spot.  Instead, I recovered for two days, attacking my own sister and her husband’s townhouse with a violence never before seen in a suburban location.

I may be an airhead, but at least I care enough to reserve my warfare for family and hookers.  I’m not going to hurt innocent bystanders.  I won’t blow up children.

Unless they’re stupid enough to enter the bathroom.

Survival of the fittest.

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MacGyver would have used more duct tape

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I was in junior high.  Now they call it “middle school” – same idea:  the kids are awkward, covered in acne, sporting braces, wearing stirrup pants, getting periods, all sorts of fun.  I even knew a boy who got a perm.  Unfortunately, everyone else in the school knew he got a perm, too.  It wasn’t just a “body wave” it was a tight perm.  He ended up looking like an albino black kid with a nice blonde fro.  I was as uncomfortable as the rest of them.  I religiously curled and hairsprayed my bangs, put on my light blue mascara, and called my best friend Lillian to make sure that we were going to be wearing almost the exact same outfit as one another.  Junior high was not a time to stick out in the crowd.  You wanted to blend as much as possible, so maybe no one would even notice  you were there.  But if they did, they’d be blown away by those electric blue eyelashes and probably fall in love with you in an instant, claiming adoration of your hot pink stirrup pants as they fell to the ground at your feet, and magically Patrick Swayze’s She’s Like The Wind would start playing in the background.

As if I wasn’t feeling self-conscious enough, in April of the ninth grade I was booked to have major jaw surgery.  I was living in Saudi Arabia, but my doctors were both Americans.  Steffan and Cobetto.  They sounded like a Private Investigator Team, and for some reason that made them cooler.  I imagined them living like Magnum P.I. – Dobermans at their sides, fixing jaws in their free time.  They discussed what they were going to need to do to my poor head, but I tuned them out, hoping that if I didn’t know what they were going to do, it wouldn’t hurt as bad.  This was similar to the technique I employed with child-birth.  It does not work.

Still completely in the dark, and day dreaming about Corey Haim or Corey Feldman (which was the cute one?) I checked into surgery.  My anesthesiologist was an Arab man with a Texas accent.  I panicked for a moment because the only other Arab man I knew with such a strong Texas accent was the shrimp man who drove his Toyota pickup door to door through our compound, selling his little edibles.  Okay.  Not the same man, I finally convinced myself.  He said, “Now, we’re going to listen to some music and I’m going to have you count backwards from 100 and you’ll fall asleep before you know it.”  He turned on the music.  OH GAWD!  Willy Nelson? You’ve got to be kidding me.  I tried to tell him how much I hated country music, and could he please put on some sort of top 40 Eurotrash, but the gas mask was over my mouth and he just thought I was counting.  And then I was asleep.

I woke up some six hours later, in intensive care, with screaming ripping pain – coughing and gagging and the tube that had been in my throat was pulled out.

Then I was asleep again.

I woke an hour or two later to a flash going off.  Was I stroking out?  Was I supposed to go towards a light?  Wow.  It was my dad.  He was taking pictures. Really?  We need to remember this with a Kodak moment?

I willfully returned to my coma.

I next woke up to “Happy birthday to you…” as the doctors and my parents and sister sang happy birthday.  It was my fifteenth birthday.  Joy of joys.  This is just what I always wanted.

I fought back some tears, clutched my childhood cozy blanket, shut my eyes and went back to sleep.

I woke a  few hours later and realized that they had not done jaw surgery, they had actually amputated my feet!  Oh Lord!  How would I ever find a boyfriend if I had to attend the dances with no feet?  Oh man.  I guess it would be easier to carry all of my books if I was in a wheelchair though.

I started crying again.  I tried to talk, but apparently they had done something to my mouth as well.  My mom appeared and said, “What honey?’

“mmmfffffft  hhhhhhhhhrrrrpppppttttttt…. uuuuuuuugggghhhh…. sniff sniff sniff”

My mom looked at me quizzically.  She smiled a little, I think she was trying not to laugh at me.  She said, “Oh babe, I just can’t understand a thing you are saying.”  The room was dark, so I hadn’t realized my older sister was in there.  She unplugged her Walkman briefly and said, “Duh, Mom, she said her feet hurt.”

Wow.  My sister was my psychic advocate.  I loved her so much at that moment.  I almost forgave her for trying to kill me with a butcher knife two years before.

My mom rubbed my feet that had been bound for the last day in the intensive care’s version of a hospital bed.  Oh.  They just needed blood flow.  Heaven.  Then back to sleep again.

Next I awoke to some stranger giving me a sponge bath.  Oh the horror.  I was fifteen.  I was naked.  Some lady is bathing me.  Please oh please oh please don’t let my dad walk in with his camera.

Then back to sleep.

I woke up next in a regular hospital room, with some angry Indian nurses who spoke only bits and pieces of English.  Interesting.

And.  Where. Is.  My.  Cozy.  Blanket?????????

After panic and a toddler sized meltdown, my cozy was retrieved.  I held it tight as the pain started to build.  In Saudi Arabia, narcotics are highly illegal.  They have had phases of this being included in medical settings.  At this time, they were not completely illegal in the hospital, but the choices of drugs was limited.  Stadol was all they had.  It was an injection that burned like hot gasoline being knifed into your tissue with a salt rub to follow.  I hated it more than that bitchy popular girl on my swim team.  I waited too long to ask for the next dose.  Way too long.  My whole head felt like it would explode.  I have spared you thus far, but maybe I should explain what happened in the jaw surgery.  They actually sawed out my upper jaw (maxilla) and reshaped it with the medical world’s version of a file, and put it back into my head… with a few screws and wires to hold it in place.  They put braces on me again, to “wire” my mouth shut with really tight rubber bands.  It hurt.  Perhaps I should have asked more questions before it all began.

Finally the pain was just too much.  My mom and dad had left.  My sister/translator had left me her Walkman and a pad of paper to communicate with the staff.  I pushed the call button for the nurse.  I wrote down on my paper: PAIN KILLERS NEEDED!  She glared at me, for some weird reason.  As I rocked out to some Duran Duran (the Reflex, flex flex flex flex flex…) and tried to forget the pain, she returned with my pain medication.

In PILL FORM.

What the fuck?  My mouth was banded shut.  Did she really expect me to swallow a friggin’ pill?  Jesus.  I lost my fifteen year old mind and started screaming (with my mouth closed… it’s just not as effective) – I threw my snotty kleenex at the nurse, tears flew from my eyes, and I prayed my head would soon burst and cover this stupid woman with my brains and blood and that would SHOW HER!!!! For some reason my mom walked back in at that moment.  I was screaming, and probably drooling quite rabidly.  She told the nurse that I needed an INJECTION.  I was terrified.  This woman who I had just thrown something sticky at (granted, it was soft) was going to give me an injection?  Oh.  And let me tell you, she put some muscle behind it.  I was violently stabbed in the ass with a giant needle.  Fortunately the pain was soon gone.  I forgot how much I wanted to kill that nurse.  I forgot how frustrating it was not to be able to yell.  I even forgot that I was listening to Duran Duran.  I slept.

In the morning I had one more rude awakening.  My mom was there with me.  I had no feeling in my face, below my eyes.  I had a giant, swollen, cotton head.  My mom was making me sexy by cleaning up snot that was collecting in my nose with a Q-tip.  All I could feel was a slight pressure.  As she was pulling a nice long string of snot from my face, like a bungee cord for a lady bug, in walked my swim coach and two of my friends from school.  If I could have just stuck one of those pain shots into my brain at that moment, I would have.

I survived my jaw surgery, and in my bubble I am amazed by what they did.  I don’t know if I would have done it with the knowledge I now have, or the realization that at age 37 I now have a long screw poking into one of my sinuses.  You think I’m letting anyone operate on that part of me again?  No thanks.  I simply have an excuse for my erratic, goofy behavior.

I have a couple of screws loose.

Yes, for some reason, I also developed a Dad Sense of Humor.   I think it may have been a side effect of all those illegal narcotics.

Smoking my Fabreeze

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Remember when you used to have to eat next to smokers?  Or fly in an airplane next to smokers?  Or hang out with smokers just because they were cute?  Oh.  Those days are gone, and my nostrils are thrilled.  My lungs are also celebrating.  Of course, now, I can smell a cigarette a mile away.  My nose will alert me and my brain will instantly say, “What the hell?  Who smokes?  How dare they smoke within a mile of my home?!”

Oh we are so very entitled to our clean air these days.

I’m not perfect though (no matter how it may seem).   There was a time when I socially smoked, a brief year or so in college.  It was all the fault of a cute boy.  He smoked, and if I wanted to pretend to have something in common with him, I had to bum a smoke off of him.  Mostly I just held the cancer stick in between my fingers, pretending to be a pro.  Little did I know that I could have appeared more attractive to him if I had just brushed my hair and stopped wearing my pajamas to class.  So.  I did it for a bit.  Fortunately for me, my brain only seizes on to fattening addictions, like chocolate and sugar.  Smoking just never really hooked me.  So there!  Stupid tobacco companies!  If somehow you made chocolate cigarettes  you would have yet another victim.

So, smokers in my locale are now not allowed to smoke in restaurants or bars or even 15 feet from the entrance to a public domain.  Nice.  You have been banished to parking lots.  Well.  Nice for me.

I don’t have to wash my hair as much now.

The thing that continues to confuse me about smokers is this:

While driving, why do you smoke with your windows down?

Is it because you don’t really like smoke?  Is it because you want people to see your smoke and think you are probably extremely cool because you figured out how to light paper on fire?  Is it because you actually don’t want to smell like the stuff you are putting into your lungs?

Oh!  I know!  It’s because second-hand smoke kills.

My bubble is a smoke free zone, and there’s a cute boy in it anyway.  Well.  Boy might be an exaggeration.  Cute-middle-aged man.  I have a couple of friends who smoke.  I have clients who smoke.  The most creative of the bunch are my students who smoke, and then fabreeze themselves before giving massages (assuming this erases all evidence of tabbacco consumption).  Note to smoking massage therapists (and massage students), this doesn’t work.  It’s just a scent over a scent.  I also don’t like fabreeze.  Nasty stuff.

Though, if I had my choice, I’d probably smoke it over cigarettes.

Homeward Bound with Hiccups

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I traveled as a kid.  A lot.  I flew back and forth across this planet.  Learning about different cultures, different airlines, different airports.   People talk to you on airplanes.  There is some rule of thumb that you can tell a perfect stranger your deepest darkest stories when in the air.  It’s like Vegas.  What happens in the air on a transatlantic flight, will stay in the air.  Or at least the cargo hold.

I met a guy on one of these flights.  It was the Amsterdam – JFK leg.  We sat next to each other, drinking Heinekens, and sharing stories.  Well.  Actually, he did most of the talking.  I did most of the drinking.  He told me that he had just spent $50,000 in a little over a month, partying in Europe.  His partner had died of AIDs and left him a chunk of change.  So, he partied.  I was like, “Wow.  I’m like a white-bread chick in love with Simon Le Bon and watching movies like Goonies. I can TOTALLY relate!”  Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas hadn’t even come out yet.  I was amazed, and fascinated.   It was like hearing someone describe the train wreck that you had missed rubber-necking first-hand. He continued to tell me about his hook-ups and his raging dysentery, and on and on.  Then we landed.  As we entered the too bright lights of the International Arrivals, I suddenly felt like I had been watching a movie for those eight hours, and now here we were in the real world. He walked away to join a different line.  He stopped making eye contact with me.  I felt strangely like I had been dumped.

A cheap Vegas stripper alone in Arrivals.

Being dumped on an international flight, by a gay man who had confided in you far too much information about his month of reckless abandon doesn’t even compare to the pain of my winter break flight, senior year in high school, from JFK to Dhahran.

The morning of my departure I took and failed my trigonometry exam.  Good start.  I reached JFK with a few of my friends who were departing for our homes, in the sands of Arabia.  I went to check in my bags, as I had on every flight that I’d taken from the US for seven years.  The ticket agent looked at me funny.

“Your ticket expired.”

What?  Tickets don’t expire!?  What are you talking about?  I want to go home.  I panicked.  I called the dean of my school.  Poor guy was so nice, he offered to buy me a ticket on his credit card and said that my parents could just pay him back. That was at least a $2000 favor.  I sighed.

“The plane is full,” the ticket agent – who had a certain lack of personality, just enough to put a hormonal teen girl over the edge – said to me.  Argh.  I am in the airport.  I am already an hour and a half away from my school.  I don’t have money for a hotel.  While I melted into a large attractive puddle of snot and tears, he agreed to get me onto the next flight, along with one of the boys that I was traveling home with.

I dried my snot.  My trig exam snot.  My plane ticket snot.  This was not in the time of cell phones.  Calling Saudi Arabia was very expensive.  I did it anyway.  I used a crusty, flu and vomit (or so I imagined) covered pay phone and called home. My parents ranted and raved.  They said the ticket was fine.  They told me to go argue with the ticket agent.  They didn’t seem to remember that I was a teenager.

I melted again.  But I picked myself up (with some help from my friend) and began to argue with the ticket agent.  Turns out it actually was a good ticket, but of course my plane had already left.  It had been four hours, and I was still in JFK. I would have been closer to Saudi Arabia if I had been swimming.

So we waited for the next flight.  It was delayed.  There was a broken window that needed to be replaced.  Then we had to wait for a new flight crew.  It had been nine hours.  I was still in New York.  It was the middle of the night and there was nowhere to sit.  We ended up in an airport bar, using our carry-ons as pillows, while a South African sports team got loaded and sang fight songs into the wee hours.

I drooled profusely… waking just enough to glare at the drunkards and wipe my chin before nodding off again.

Finally we boarded our plane, the South Africans stumbling over their own typically coordinated athletic feet, me hiding the giant drool mark on my bag.  We arrived in Amsterdam.  Our next flight was into London, which is incredibly frustrating if you are heading to the middle east.  It’s like a side step.  It doesn’t really get you any closer to your destination.  Before that side step, we had a 12 hour layover.  We stayed in the heart of Amsterdam, in a beautiful hotel.  I was not feeling it.  I was tired and grumpy and still a teenage girl.  My friend light-heartedly asked if I wanted to go to a bar for a beer.  Yes indeed.  I did want that.  As we walked through Amsterdam, in the late evening hours, people would pass us by. They were interesting, mumbling characters.  It took me a while to realize that my friend was saying”no thanks” to each one that passed us.  As they walked by they were mumbling drugs.

“hash… ex… mumble mumble mumble…..”

We finally reached our bar of choice.  Rick’s Cafe.  I talked about Rick’s in another blog entry. It was dark and smokey, not terribly full.  My friend went up to an enclosed window box, like at a movie theater.  Instead of tickets, he walked away with pot.  Good idea.  Except I was already paranoid and full of angst.   I (stupidly) stuck to a beer.  I began to slowly realize that everyone in the cafe was small.  Like, really small.  There were little people all around.  It was like the plane ride from hell had dropped me right down the rabbit hole.

Ah Amsterdam.  Nothing quite compares.

We boarded our next flight, bound for London.  It had been two days since I had left my boarding school.  Still not home.  I briefly wondered where my Christmas presents would end up.  We arrived in London without a hitch.  Our next flight was to Riyadh.  This is as frustrating as the London/Amsterdam hop.  You’re just so damn close.  Argh.  So we waited for our flight to board.

As the back rows began to get on the plane,  I was called up to the boarding area.

“Um.  I’m sorry, but it seems that your visa to get into the Kingdom will expire at midnight.”  All I could think at this point was, “FUCK!” Really?  All this work and I was going to be sent back to JFK?  The little people?  The South African athletes?  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

“Oh wait a second.  If the plane is on-time and there are no delays, you should arrive in Riyadh at 11:45 p.m.”

Wow.  And if there is a delay?  I would have the honor of staying on the plane and heading right back to London.  Cool.  A fifteen minute window.  I’m pumped.

We took off on-time, miraculously enough.  In my mind, I flapped my wings to make us go faster.  I was racing the clock.  We made it into the Kingdom, my visa still good for ten minutes.  We boarded the next flight, and I was home.  I was back in the deserts of Dhaharan.  Never thought I’d be so happy to feel the humidity and have the sand instantly crust up my contacts.  HEAVEN!

My total travel time from the school to my house was four days.

In my bubble I don’t smoke anything.  Sometimes I burn a smudge stick and the smell kind of reminds me of marijuana.  That’s about as close as I get.  If I had that whole experience to do over again I would have said “YES!” to the GRASS! “YES!” to the strange people offering drugs!  I would have joined in the drinking songs at JFK!

And, I would have toasted my old homie, from that trip long ago, who told me his tales of debauchery in Amsterdam.

I may have lost my bags, but at least I didn’t end up with dysentery.